Wrigley leaders begin precautionary evacuation planning
Chief Lloyd Moses of the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation says he’s preparing an evacuation plan for Wrigley in case a wildfire south of the community becomes a threat.
At the moment, a fire named FS008 remains some 40 km southeast of Wrigley and isn’t considered to be threatening the community. The fire was, however, responsible for a two-day highway closure this week.
Moses and other members of the First Nation’s leadership team were temporarily stranded in Fort Simpson because of that closure after attending the Dehcho Annual Assembly earlier in the week.
Having made it back to Wrigley on Thursday afternoon – traffic was escorted through the wildfire-affected area – Moses says the community needs a plan if conditions worsen.
“We haven’t had a fire crew for a few years now, so it’s on us to act fast and establish an emergency response,” he told Cabin Radio.
“We’re making sure we have a number of our boats and vehicles are at the ready, that we have establishments that we can utilize [for evacuees].
“Just a week ago, this fire was much smaller.”
The fire, caused by lightning, continues to burn on both sides of Highway 1. On Wednesday, the fire was said to have reached some 3,000 hectares in size.
If an evacuation is necessary, the wildfire’s position along the only highway out of the community may complicate that operation. The NWT’s Department of Municipal and Community Affairs says it will look at several options.
Jay Boast, a spokesperson for the department, said by email Maca would work with Wrigley’s leadership and the departments of Environment and Natural Resources and Infrastructure “to examine the possibility of escorted road evacuation.”
Boast said other options may include air or water evacuation.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources earlier said an incident management team had been deployed to protect cabins in the vicinity of the wildfire.
Moses said he had yet to speak to any representative from ENR or Maca as of Thursday evening.
He said a north wind blowing smoke southward had ensured air quality in Wrigley was not too bad.
That, along with rain, has slowed the fire’s progress and kept Moses in good spirits.
“We tip our hats to Mother Nature for the rescue,” he said.